Roc-A-Fella Records (RAF), co-founded by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, sued co-founder Damon Dash for allegedly peddling a non-fungible token of Jay-Z’s debut album in 1996. Reasonable doubt.
The lawsuit claims that Dash partnered with the SuperFarm platform to auction an NFT of Reasonable doubt, following a clear path of selling art property through NFT. He quotes an alleged press release from SuperFarm calling the sale “one of the biggest NFT auctions to date” as it would transfer “the rights to all future revenue generated by Damon Dash’s album to the winner of the auction “. That’s an unusually broad promise for an NFT. “Sell the copyright to Jay-Z Reasonable doubt as NFT is a revolutionary landmark – both for the crypto space and the music industry at large, ”the statement apparently continued.
But Roc-A-Fella’s lawyers say it wasn’t Dash’s product to advertise. Dash owns a minority stake in RAF, but the lawsuit says this gives him “no right to sell any business asset” as NFT or otherwise. SuperFarm canceled the auction at the behest of the RAF, but the label says Dash is trying to find a replacement location. RAF wants Dash to hand over all NFTs he’s been hit on Reasonable doubt, plus pecuniary damage. “There is only one Reasonable doubt – the rights are irreplaceable ”, notes the complaint. “The result is simple: Dash can’t sell what he doesn’t own. “
According to TMZ, who first reported the lawsuit, Dash called the lawsuit inaccurate – claiming he was trying to sell his share of the RAF rather than the album itself. “Under the terms of the deal with a potential buyer, the buyer would buy my share of Roc-a-Fella Records and Jay-Z will have exclusive administration rights” to the album, he said. TMZ. Dash also told the New York Post‘s Sixth page that “I don’t run to different places to try and auction Reasonable doubt. I have worked with one platform and it is SuperFarm. He called the prosecution a scare tactic designed to sell him his stake in the company.
The case is unrelated to another recent trial where Jay-Z accused Reasonable doubt cover photographer Jonathan Mannion to exploit his likeness.
As DFTs gain in popularity, related lawsuits are beginning to appear in the courts. This costume apparently depends on Dash’s nebulous description of NFT. You can analyze SuperFarm’s purported product description to match Dash’s demand, for example: if you buy this NFT you will get all the income that Dash himself would have earned copyright for the album. But you can also interpret it as a full-fledged copyright sale, and the title of the press release promotes an “auction for Jay-Z’s iconic album. Reasonable doubt. Either way, NFTs are meant to impart a sense of tight ownership and exclusivity – and auctioning off a partial stake in an iconic album doesn’t quite sound the same.